The Collector of Customs at the Port of New York, most often referred to as Collector of the Port of New York, was a federal officer who was in charge of the collection of import duties on foreign goods that entered the United States by ship at the Port of New York.
The office was described as "the prize plum of Federal patronage not only in this State but perhaps in the country, outside of positions in the Cabinet." Customs collections at US ports were overseen by three political appointees—the Collector, Surveyor, and Naval Officer.[a] Because they were originally paid based on a percentage system that factored in both customs collected and fines levied for those who attempted to evade payment, these appointments were very lucrative, especially those at the Port of New York, by far America's busiest port. New York's Collector was the highest paid official of the federal government; as Collector from 1871 to 1878, Chester A. Arthur's compensation exceeded the modern equivalent of $1 million annually. The custom house staffs, especially at New York's Custom House were also political appointees, and were expected to contribute a portion of their salaries to the party to which they owed their appointments.
Disputes over patronage at the Port of New York led to an ongoing feud from the 1860s to the 1880s between the party faction led by Roscoe Conkling and reformers who counted Rutherford B. Hayes and James A. Garfield among their number. The attempts at reform that began in the 1870s led to the political appointees at each port being placed on salaries rather than the percentage system. The annual salary in 1920 was $12,000 (about $153,000 in 2019) plus about $8,000 in fees (about $102,000 in 2019).
The customs collection districts include the Collector of the Port of Newark and Collector of the Port of Perth Amboy. They became the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.
List of Collectors
- The Naval Officer was a political appointee, not a military one. The position was called "naval" because the incumbent was expected to board and inspect ships to aid the Surveyor and Collector in estimating the duties owed.
- A private act of the 58th United States Congress in March 1904, indemnified James T. Kilbreth (posthumously), George R. Bidwell, and Nevada N. Stranahan as collectors of customs for the district and port of New York for the losses through embezzlement by Byram W. Winters, a customs service clerk. Stranahan received a refund in the sum of $8,821.44 from the federal government, having personally settled the entire amount of the fraud.
- Harry M. Durning was the defendant in the case of Dioguardi v. Durning, 139 F.2d 774 (2d Cir. 1944), which is frequently used in Civil Procedure courses as a starting point to teach pleadings under the modern approach of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
- "George W. Aldridge Dies As He Golfs At Westchester Club – Collector of Port, 65, and Seemingly Hale, Stricken With Apoplexy – Sinks Without a Word – Charles D. Hilles and George Sweeny Near Rochester Leader as Death Comes – Ends Picturesque Career – Last Survivor of Big Three, Including Platt and Hendricks – Body to Be Taken Home Today" (PDF). The New York Times. June 14, 1922. Retrieved August 20, 2016.
- US Congress (1875). Revised Statutes of the United States Passed at the First Session of the Forty-Third Congress. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. p. 523.
- Campbell, Ballard C. (2008). Disasters, Accidents, and Crises in American History. New York, NY: Facts on File. pp. 152–153. ISBN 978-1-4381-3012-5.
- "Open Season Now For Job Hunters – Local Republican Leaders Preparing to Fill Offices Under New Administration – Many Fine Federal Plums – Scores of Places Under State Rule Will Also Fall to Faithful Party Workers" (PDF). The New York Times. November 9, 1920. Retrieved August 20, 2016.
- Bamberger, Werner (June 19, 1966). "New Chief Cites Customs Aim Here – Stramiello Declares He Will Strive to Improve Service". The New York Times.
- "NEW-YORK'S CUSTOMS OFFICERS.; THE COLLECTORS, NAVAL OFFICERS, AND SURVEYORS SINCE THE FOUNDATION OF THE GOVERNMENT". The New York Times. July 20, 1878. Archived from the original on August 19, 2016. Retrieved February 23, 2018.
- "Collector Hendricks Now; Mr. Fassett's Successor Sworn In And In Charge. He Looks Through The Departments Intent On "Learning The Business" - Rumors Of Changes - Other Custom House Matters" (PDF). The New York Times. September 29, 1891.
- "Francis Hendricks, Politician, Dies At 86 - Former Republican Leader of Central New York and ex-State Senator" (PDF). The New York Times. June 10, 1920. Retrieved August 20, 2016.
- "New-York Offices Filled - James T. Kilbreth Collector , Walter H. Bunn Appraiser" (PDF). The New York Times. July 29, 1893. p. 1. Retrieved August 20, 2016.
- "Appointments By Bidwell – New Collector of the Port Begins Work – Joseph J. Couch Is Special Deputy" (PDF). The New York Times. July 15, 1897.
- "Monthly Bulletin – The Federal Service". Good Government. 30 (11): 99. November 1913. Retrieved May 1, 2011.
- "Mitchel In Office As Port Collector Loeb, Retiring, Wishes Him Well – McAneny and Steers There as He Is Sworn In – Still in Mayoralty Fight – Politicians Say His Federal Appointment Can't Keep Him Out and Will Help Him". The New York Times. June 8, 1913. p. C4. Retrieved August 20, 2016.
- "Malone Nominated As Port Collector – O'Gorman's Son-in-Law to Succeed Mitchel – Senator, Avoiding Comment, Tells a Story – Wilson's Personal Choice – Appointment Thought to Show Satisfaction at Tammany's Defeat – Splendid Selection, Says Mitchel" (PDF). The New York Times. November 11, 1913.
- "Growth Of New York Port; Collector Newton Says This Is World's Greatest Commerce Centre" (PDF). The New York Times. June 28, 1918.
- "Henry C. Stuart, Customs Aide – Assistant Collector of Port of New York for 15 Years Is Dead Here at 73 – In U.S. Service 47 Years – Considered Authority on Laws of His Department – Honored on Retirement in '37". The New York Times. May 14, 1938. p. 15. Retrieved August 20, 2016.
- "Philip Elting, Once Collector of Port – Chairman of Ulster County Republicans Since 1904 Held Post Here, 1923 to 1933 – Dies in Kingston at 77 – Descendant of 9 Generations of Ulster County Residents – Leader at Conventions". The New York Times. July 21, 1941. p. 15. Retrieved August 20, 2016.
- NEW IMPOST CHIEF; Kelly Sworn as Port's 41st Collector of Customs in The New York Times on July 6, 1961 (subscription required)